I taught on the Arno Atoll in the Marshall Islands, in the town of Lukoj during the 2007-2008 school year. I was the first volunteer in that town, though not on the atoll. Arno is an outer atoll-meaning it has very limited resources and is very primitive. It is a 1-1 1/2 hr boat ride to the capital, Majuro.
My town was about 150 people, 45 of whom were in the K-8 school where I taught. I taught English to the K/1, 2/3, 4/5 and 6/8 classes (no 7th graders the year I was there), science to the 6/8 class for the first half of the year, and then math to the 8th graders for the 2nd half. The town was very appreciative of my efforts and were very supportive in a hands-off way. I was able to do more or less what I wanted with teaching. While there is a curriculum, the students were so far behind where they should be based on it, that I had to teach where they were. My 8th graders had difficulty with the 2nd grade English text books. The English text books we had were based for American students in American schools learning to read. They were not designed for learning English. I mainly created my own materials. We had a lot of construction paper, so I made bulletin boards from that. We did a lot of singing and interactive learning.
My host family was amazing and the highlight of my time there. They treated me like a daughter and when my parents visited, told them that they were my riballe (American) parents, while they themselves were my rimajel (Marshallese) parents. I had my own small hut on the family property. My mama cooked over a fire in the kitchen hut. We ate a lot of white rice with canned meat over it. My town ate a lot of canned tuna, but also canned mackerel, spam, Vienna sausages and other canned meat. Pancakes, homemade donuts, ramen and fish were also very common. I loved when my mama made local Marshallese food, which is delicious. Breadfruit, pandanus, and coconuts were also staples.
A typical weekday:
Wake up with the dawn/roosters
Write in my journal, get ready for the day
About 7:30-eat breakfast (pancakes topped with peanut butter, ramen, donuts, etc)
8:00--walk to school
8:15--school day started with group assembly, song and prayer
8:30--classes started. English, Math and Marshallese were an hour each. Science and Social Studies were 45 minutes each. I rotated to each classroom to teach English, as I did not have my own room.
Noonish--walk home for an hour lunch (rice topped with meat--either canned or fish)
1-2:30--finish school day
2:30-4:30 ish--lesson plan, prep for the next day, work in the mini school library I put together, hold English Club, etc
4:30 ish--play volleyball with the young adults and older students or take a walk on the beach and exercise
6:30ish--dinner (similar to lunch)
Dark--sit in my hut with solar powered light with my host family's kids (2 4th graders) and often other school kids. I tutored the 8th graders many nights, played cards with the kids, read, journaled, etc
9ish--went to bed
On weekends, I lesson planned, graded, etc. I took beach walks on Friday nights with as many students who wanted to come. This was a highlight of my stay. We'd walk down the beach, and at each house, kids would run up and grab whoever lived there to join us. By the end of the walk, we'd easily have 30 kids! They brought flashlights and ran around, holding my hands, singing songs, etc. It was awesome.
Sunday was church twice--once in the morning and once in the afternoon. My host father was the pastor, so I felt like I needed to go. Not all volunteers attended church, but it's a big community event, so many do.
The boat from Majuro came three days a week. If I wanted to go to the capital for internet, phone, etc I would leave Friday at lunch and return Monday afternoon. This meant I missed 1 1/2 -2 days of work. They were fine with it, but you couldn't do it that often. That was where I had electricity and access to the outside world. I got mail on the boat once every 2 weeks, but could mail out letters anytime the boat left (3x a week--I typically mailed out once a week).
The outer islands are very isolated. You have a radio to communicate with other volunteers and the office staff in Majuro, but mine was broken October-May. I could use the CB radio in an emergency if needed. So I missed out on the volunteer bonding that happened on the radio. Mail took a while to get from the US to the RMI, and then to my island. So I was behind on news. Mail day was amazing though. I lived for packages and letters from home! In Majuro, I could email or talk on the phone to my family and boyfriend. I went about 7 times over the course of the year.
I felt very safe in my town. There was pretty much no crime. I never had anything stolen, but I didn't leave anything in sight that could be borrowed. I had a combination lock on my house door. In Majuro, I was cautious at night, but again, there is not much crime. I imagine there is more theft and petty crimes in Majuro, but I wasn't there much.
I LOVED the giant Christmas celebration and all the 1st birthday parties.
I could talk on and on about my experiences. I LOVED it and highly recommend WorldTeach and the RMI experience to everyone.